Galatea: Artistic Introspection

When I first entered the “exhibit” hosting Galatea, I held preconceived notions about the environment: namely, that Galatea was, in fact, an animatronic work of art- an object of inspection and artistic scrutiny.  I began to (somewhat callously, I suppose) examine her every component, looking for a clue to her mysticism.  When she insisted I speak to her, saying “It’s not polite to stare,” I felt, frankly, humiliated.  Had I not considered the intellectual aspect she might have to offer?  She had a name (a vaguely familiar one, at that), a humanized form, and spoke to me as soon as I entered the room; however, the nature of the “exhibit” prompted me into a cold analysis without any thought to conversing or examining the piece in an empathetic manner.

We thus talked, and as her history unfolded (a life on Cyprus, a creator who scorned her very existence), some interactions came effortlessly.  If Galatea mentioned being sold, I would ask to whom and why? But shortly thereafter, the ease and fluidity of our conversation dwindled and I was left flailing for the next logically “correct” action.  The more I inquire to subjects already discussed, the more she becomes disgusted with my intellectual stupor, the more I acquire the urge to brandish my sword and destroy the exhibit (note: The game does not, for some reason, allow this).

Galatea seems a piece centered on helplessness, both on the evident part of Galatea, struggling against her own motives for being, but also on the part of the interrogator in understanding a narratively coherent set of events that will produce a desired response.  That is, you are simultaneously given too much creative freedom (in the form of an open-ended storyline and very subtle dialogue clues to guide you along) while clear but imperceptible  boundaries are drawn (You cannot, for instance, stand on top of the pedestal, throw Galatea to the ground, and declare yourself Crown Princess of  Australia).

What you do when encountered with this helplessness and overwhelming uncertainty says leagues about you as a game-player: do you analyze the sequence of topics and stumble upon the next topic of discussion?  Consult guides online?  Attempt to lick the placard?  Grappling with what is acceptable behavior, what is unacceptable, and what the program refuses to acknowledge creates intense emotions that could not have been produced by any other narrative method.  If Galatea were a video-game, a distinct plot would be enacted and both visual and in-game cues would aid in guiding the journey into a specific path.  While modern Role-Playing-Games have introduced more non-linear storylines, the consequences for your actions in such games are conspicuous; in Galatea, the lines are drawn less neatly- if you ask her about love at one point, she may respond it makes men foolish, while she later might admit deeper feelings or even become completely unresponsive.  Such an emphasis on the context of interactions could not be achieved by simply reading about an individual conversing with Galatea, nor by a manifest, undeviating plot provided by a video-game.  You are without your senses, without a flow of action, stumbling in the dark for the next thing to say that might bring you that much closer to unlocking the obscurity of Galatea and coming to terms with your own motivations and the end result you wish to achieve.


-Victoria Lang


~ by victoriafrolics on January 17, 2011.

One Response to “Galatea: Artistic Introspection”

  1. I think it’s very interesting that Victoria brought up the issue that Galatea can arouse certain feelings from us. In the case of this author, it’s at times humiliation. How is it that something completely computer generated/with a “humanized form” limited to its precoded formula is able to do so? The Galatea experience seems spontaneous, but it is not. Everything is based on her code and the series of questions you enter. Yet this program has tricked us into believing it is individually intelligent and seemingly not-premeditated.

    As Victoria says in her final paragraph, video games are conducted in a similar manner, the only difference being visual and audio clues are there to aid you in your journey to the final level. So where does this leave Galatea as a form of narrative? What is it about Galatea that elicits certain responses from the participants and intrigues us enough to continue asking questions although we know all the possible answers have already been formed? And finally, is it possible for Galatea to stand the test of time?

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